From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):
The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday unveiled its long-awaited plan for tackling the toxic chemicals contaminating the Widefield aquifer, immediately coming under fire from environmental groups and some El Paso County residents for not going far enough.
The agency said it would begin the yearslong process of setting a safe drinking water limit for two types of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds by year’s end, while studying the toxicity of other varieties and taking steps to strengthen groundwater cleanup measures across the nation.
Environmental groups across the nation and residents in southern El Paso County criticized the plan for not going far enough to protect them and millions of other Americans whose drinking water sources contain the man-made chemicals.
The plan does nothing to hasten the implementation of a drinking water standard, and it largely ignores all but a couple of types of the chemicals — including those found most commonly in bloodstreams of Security, Widefield and Fountain residents.
Doug Benevento, the EPA’s regional administrator, said the agency is doing all it can to address the toxic chemicals as quickly as legally possible.
“We get it’s frustrating, because people want something done now,” Benevento said.
“And what we are required to do though under the Safe Drinking Water Act is a scientific process — and there’s an economic portion of it too — that we’re required to go through before we make a final determination. And we’re in that process right now.”
The substances, also known as PFAS, are man-made chemicals used for decades in a military firefighting foam, including at Peterson Air Force Base. They also were used in myriad nonstick household products, such as carpet cleaners, Teflon products and fast-food wrappers.
Also called perfluorinated compounds, they have been linked to several health ailments, including cancer, liver disease and high cholesterol.
Specifically, the EPA’s new 72-page plan calls for proposing a “national drinking water regulatory determination” later this year for the two best-known types of perfluorinated compounds, PFOA and PFOS.
Such determinations are considered an opening step for regulating the chemicals and setting a maximum contaminant level — similar to what exists for such chemicals as lead, cyanide and mercury.
Still, it could take three to five years before the chemicals are regulated, said Bob Benson, an EPA toxicologist.